Shea panic


ONE OF THE few mainstream chocolates that is safe for Sidney to eat is Cadbury’s Buttons. This is fantastic because:

* they are kiddie-friendly

* they come in teeny packs so it’s easy to limit the amount he shovels in

* they are available everywhere so it’s the perfect party bag sweet to suggest to friends

* they are available everywhere so it’s the perfect treat for family to buy

* they are available everywhere so if we find ourselves in a situation where we’re out with friends and every kid is having an ice cream, or a cake, or something Sidney can’t have, it’s easy to track down a packet of Buttons for him to enjoy

* they are brilliantly versatile for cake toppings, biscuit decorations, etc

So imagine the panic when a new ingredients listing turned up on selected packets of Buttons a little while ago: shea. Continue reading “Shea panic”

Hello, Hazel

Unknown-1GOOD news: we are OK with hazelnuts!

After scoring a zero on Sidney’s last two skin prick tests, we were given the go-ahead to try a taste challenge at home. Actually, we were given the go-ahead a year ago but couldn’t for the life of us find any hazelnuts in their shells (naked ones run the risk of being contaminated by other nuts) until Christmas. And then I had a baby and we only got round to it now.

Continue reading “Hello, Hazel”

“What’ll I do (ting-a-ling) when you (ting-a-ling) are far (ting-a-ling) away..?”

panicPANIC at Nanny and Nonno’s house tonight where Sid is having a sleepover: sudden clutching of tummy and inconsolable screaming at bedtime.

All became clear when he farted.

(In all seriousness, though, this is what allergy does to you: every minor rash or windy pain takes on menacing import; you wonder “has he eaten something he shouldn’t?”, “is this a reaction?” as you grapple with one hand for the Epi.)

On reflection, he probably ate too much of Mum’s homemade ice-cream…

Anapen recall

The last place you expect to hear that your tot’s Anapen adrenaline injector is being recalled is on BBC 6Music news. But you can blame the manufacturers for that – apparently they failed to prewarn the hospital allergists about the recall before deciding to issue a press release. Nice.

I’ve literally just got off the phone from our lovely doc who confirmed the Anapen is indeed the subject of a voluntary recall here in the UK, because of potential issues with the plastic needle sheath affecting the dosage of adrenalin. We’re to be called into the hospital over the next couple of weeks and retrained in EpiPens instead.

Click here for the Reuters report – all I can currently find online.

But some words of reassurance from our doc: the Anapen is only being recalled here in the UK and not in other European countries (for example France, where it is used more commonly). Those countries are waiting to know the results of further tests before they make any decision, so here in the UK we are just being a little more cautious.

There’s also no evidence that anyone has been affected by faulty Anapens, and testing of 26,000 of the devices here hasn’t previously thrown up any issues.

That said, for peace of mind I’m keen to switch to the EpiPen as soon as possible.

Check back here for more updates as and when they come…

* Update 1.30pm bit more info here

Yes, er, yes bananas?

I can’t quite believe it but it looks as if we may have beaten this ridiculous banana allergy. Yesterday was hospital taste test day and, for the first time ever, Sidney passed if not with flying let’s at least say determinedly flapping colours.

A few weeks ago we had a follow-up series of skin prick tests, which suggested that the banana allergy could be going: from a bumper 12mm hive reaction when he was six months old to 3mm this time around. A taste challenge under hospital conditions was the only way to know for sure.

It’s a long and boring process, starting with a dab of fruit on the lip and building up to eat about 20g, with 20 minute gaps between doses and a constant round of blood pressure, oxygen, chest and skin checks throughout.

To quote Angela Carter – or, rather, her Cockney heroine Grandma Chance – I’ve learned to “hope for the best, expect the worst”. We’ve had taste challenges for wheat, sesame and green pea so far and failed every one, to varying degrees. But five hours in and, as a nap-less Sid was veering dangerously towards meltdown, we managed to spoon the last lot, a hefty cupful, in. And while we didn’t quite make it through scot-free – a few ambiguous red splodges showed up around his chin – the verdict was that this banana thing is on the way out.

Now we have to wait for 48 hours to make sure there’s no delayed reaction, and during the coming two weeks feed him banana two or three times. All being well, bananas will then be in his diet as a matter of course – with care taken to ensure he never goes for more than two weeks without having some, at least while he’s still young. The reason for this is that there have been cases where children have got over certain allergies but haven’t actually liked the food in question enough to ever eat it. Then, weeks or months later, they try the food again and find they have another reaction.

Banana is a funny one. It’s touted as one of the safest and best weaning foods and everyone does a double-take when you say your baby is allergic to it. Yet it’s not as rare as you might think.

In some cases banana allergy has strong links to latex allergy and goes hand-in-hand with reactions to the likes of avocado or kiwi. But there is another strain of allergic reaction to banana among babies that appears pretty much isolated to that fruit in particular.

There’s not a lot of research yet so no solid stats but, anecdotally, it’s said to disappear in around 80 per cent of those cases by two to three years of age (as, we hope, with Sidney). Robert Boyle, clinical senior lecturer in paediatric allergy at Imperial College London, notes: “We do see quite a few infants with early onset banana allergy which resolves fairly quickly.”

As a little side note I have one word of advice: if your baby reacts to banana – or, indeed, anything – don’t mess about trying to self-diagnose or listening to friends who became doctors at the Trawling the Internet School of Medicine. We had people warning us that, now Sid had reacted to banana, he’d be forever fated never to go near everything from courgette to melon, kiwi, chestnut, cucumber, tomatoes and celery. Crap. The only way you’ll ever know for sure is to get tested, properly, by a real expert.

Anyway, if banana is back on the menu it opens up a host of happy possibilities: egg-free cakes often demand banana as a substitute, bananas on (wheat-free) toast is a good little failsafe and it’s rare to find a shop or cafe that won’t have a banana in event of a food emergency. Plus so many of those fruit pouches and smoothies you get from Ella’s Kitchen and Plum have a sneaky banana in them to thicken up the mix.

It feels a bit weird: we’ve got so used to veering away from babies wielding bananas that it seems wrong to have any in the house. My husband and I haven’t picked one up since last May, in solidarity and because Sid reacted just to a touch of the fruit.

On the flipside, we carted in a load of fresh beans and pulses for skin prick tests at the hospital this week to see what may and may not be possible to introduce. We’ve had to be very cautious because of the peanut, chickpea and green pea allergies; they’re all related legumes so we haven’t dared to introduce any more. Unfortunately, green lentil, red lentil and broad bean all flared up something rotten. But a string of others – cannellini, borlotti, kidney, butter and French beans – scored a zero. We have to play it cautiously, as a negative score doesn’t mean he won’t react when he actually eats them, but we can try to introduce one or two of them carefully, antihistamines and Epipen at the ready, and see how we go.

But the future, well, it seems to hold bananas! Bananas and (egg free) custard! Banana split! Mashed banana and milk!

Just one worry – am I going to have to rename this blog?

Cavendish bananas are the main commercial bana...

The Allergy Interview – Gemma Morris

SHE hit the headlines this month after it was revealed she suffered a massive anaphylactic shock while on a skiing holiday in Austria. Now nut allergic Sky News presenter Gemma Morris, 27, tells yesnobananas about her childhood milk and banana ‘cure’, dodgy cosmetics and how to handle eating out…

“There was no pivotal moment when I found out I had a nut allergy. I’ve had bad reactions to nuts from as far back as my memory serves me. As a small child, I used to tell my mother I was experiencing my “nut feeling”. She knew that meant my mouth was becoming itchy and irritated, and I was starting to feel a lot of discomfort.

The usual remedy was to give me bland, soft foods to take the taste away and distract from the feeling. I would have to stuff my mouth with bits of banana or drink a big glass of soya milk (not cow’s milk, it used to give me eczema apparently – an intolerance I have grown out of nowadays).

My mum told our GP about the “nut feeling” episodes. He was apparently pretty unconcerned, and simply told her not to give me nuts!?

I’m not allergic to all nuts. I’m fine with almonds (I love them, eat loads of them) and skin prick testing has twice revealed I’m fine with peanuts too. But I’ve never had the courage to eat a peanut to find out if it’s true!

I didn’t carry an Epipen until I was about 15. The school had no idea about my nut allergy. It was a large school and it felt easier just to keep my Epipens on me and take care of myself.

Many years earlier, at junior school, I remember having an allergic reaction to a chocolate that a friend had smuggled into our cloakroom at playtime. I ended up in the school office, sitting on the sofa where they made all the sick kids sit, just ‘waiting it out’ until the reaction eased off. It was horrible.

People just didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t even understand it myself. This was the very early 1990s; I can only assume allergies were less well known in those days.

My friends are very supportive. They’re used to me checking with waiting staff in every restaurant we go to.

When I was younger, there wasn’t much ‘support’ friends could offer me, really. I had my Epipens, my antihistamines, I just took care of myself when out.

I did get anxious about some nights out during those teenage years when alcohol begins to play a role. It sounds a tad over-the-top, but I used to fear that if my friends were drunk, would they still be able to ring an ambulance if I keeled over? Would they be sober enough to notice me choking on the floor trying to grab my Epipen? You can imagine the near-death scenarios I used to play out in my head before a night out! I hasten to add none of it ever actually happened.

I’ve had loads of other reactions while eating out. Among the worst and most memorable were eating a supposedly nut free salad in a café in Malta which turned out to be dressed in pesto! I had a terrible time during the following 48 hours. And eating a basic pasta dish at a restaurant in Wimbledon which I reacted to immediately. The restaurant swore blind there were no nuts in it, but I was keeling over and had to be driven home ASAP.

The nut allergy came up on the first date with my boyfriend because we were in a restaurant and I needed to check my chosen meal was nut-free. Unless I am about to eat something unfamiliar there’s no need to declare my allergy.

I eat out all the time. I just check with the waiting staff whenever I order. I find mentioning the words “severe and fatal allergy” tends to get the kitchen staff to take it seriously.

Actually, I found a great tapas restaurant at the weekend near where I live in Richmond where the waiter told me they do not use nuts in ANY of their cooking – Don Fernando. It was great to have such peace of mind when eating my dinner!

My failsafe food to order is some sort of chicken or fish salad – with dressing on the side (in case it’s a nutty pesto dressing).

When it comes to prepackaged food I’d just recommend checking the ingredients list – always.

With the ‘may contain traces of nuts’ thing it depends what the food is. If it’s something like a pot of hummus then, yes, I do eat it. If it’s a seeded bread, then no – I usually wouldn’t eat it.

To a newly diagnosed nut allergic, I would say: relax, just be careful and always carry antihistamines and an Epipen.

To a parent of a nut allergic child, I would say an even bigger RELAX – your fretting will teach your child to panic about his or her allergy. Growing up is scary enough as it is.

When you are with your child and they begin to have a reaction, please stay very, very calm and gently take the necessary measures. Teach them not to be embarrassed about their dietary needs and to have confidence in spitting something out if it doesn’t feel right!

What I’d like to see is better, bigger, clearer indications on all products containing nut derivatives. Not just food, but cosmetics too. I realised this morning that a new foundation I was about to use contained walnut extract. I wouldn’t have known had I not been reading a leaflet about it.